By Kevin Ritchie
Free copies of The Toronto Star could be distributed on Ryerson’s campus as early as January, despite protest from student papers that it will cut into their readership and advertising revenue.
Linda Grayson, Ryerson’s v.p. administration and student affairs, said last week that she plans to enter into negotiations with the Toronto daily — Canada’s largest newspaper — to bring its Campus Readership Program to the university.
The program, which is modelled after one at the University of Penn State in Pennsylvania, is already in place at York University, the University of Toronto, Seneca College, Queen’s University, Georgian College and Wilfrid Laurier University.
“I think it’s important to ensure that we remain a centre for the free exchange of ideas,” Grayson said.
Over the past month, Grayson met twice with a consultation group to hear the concerns of representatives from The Eyeopener, Night Views, The Ryersonian, RyeSAC and CESAR.
“Clearly the university decided it was going to go ahead with the program in spite of the consultation that was already going on,” said The Ryersonian’s faculty advisor Peter Robertson, who sat in on the consultations.
But Grayson is confident she can ease worries by including several points in a contract negotiated with the Star, including where racks can be placed and the amount of marketing the Star can do on campus. Grayson also said she plans to negotiate a one-year contract only. When the contract is up, the paper’s impact will be reviewed.
This hasn’t assuaged the fears of the campus media.
While Robertson agrees the contract should be short-term, he still fears the media giant will crush the weekly campus publications.
He believes students who have a choice between reading the Star or a campus paper will choose the Star.
“We all know in this business that the amount of time available for people to read newspapers is shrinking all the time,” he said.
York’s main campus paper, Excalibur, as well as Laurier’s paper, The Cord, both say circulation has dropped by as much as 2,000 papers now that the Star is on their campuses.
Brad Henderson, a spokesperson for The Toronto Star, said his paper will not be competing for readers with the campus press because The Eyeopener and The Ryersonian are distributed once a week rather than daily.
“All they have to do is prove their circulation has gone down,” Henderson said. “We’re out of there.”
He said the Star has kept promises not to have split runs — special advertisements or sections aimed at students — inserted into papers.
Shawn Jeffords, Excalibur’s editor-in-chief, said The Toronto Star ran an advertisement in papers across North York last year aimed directly at York students. “It’s a little too coincidental,” he said.
Henderson said the Star didn’t target students at York. “Produce [the evidence] and I will produce a cheque on the spot — for any paper,” he said.
Aside from the free papers, the Star’s Campus Readership Program plans to bring editorial staff from the Star to speak on campus, and offer to give student press tips about how to run a newspaper.